MVP Pelaez does it all for 12U Mother’s Day champ Spartans

By DN WRITING STAFF | May 13, 2024

By Rich Bevensee

It was only two weeks ago that the 12U Union County Spartans learned a valuable lesson about fighting until the very last out. Little did they realize that the experience would come in handy so soon. 

On Sunday afternoon the Spartans were trailing by a run with a man aboard in the top of the sixth inning of the Mother’s Day Classic championship game. Just an inning earlier they loaded the bases with one out and came away empty.

With one out in the sixth, cleanup hitter Matias Pelaez, unsuccessful in his first three at bats, golfed the first pitch he saw over the right field fence for a two-run homer. It was his third homer of the weekend and it propelled the Spartans to a 6-5 victory over the Methacton Audubon Recreation Association Warriors of North Philadelphia and the 12U trophy at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

Pelaez, who pitched all six innings and held the Warriors scoreless in the final three frames, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

“This feels great,” Pelaez said. “You have to win big games and it feels good to get the MVP and know you helped win a big game.”

The Spartans may relish this title for a while because of the mountain they had to climb. The Warriors charged to a 5-1 lead after three innings with their ace, tall righty Ryder Yoder, on the mound and throwing well.

But Spartans coach Dan Orlando said he had a feeling his team wasn’t through battling. Two weeks ago, the Spartans reached the final of a Cal Ripken tournament in Aberdeen, Maryland, by twice coming back from five-run deficits.

“They’ve been fighting all year,” Orlando said. “This was the recipe in Maryland. They were down five runs twice and came back and I told them it was very important for them to do that there, so they can see that it’s a full game, 18 outs, and they have to get you out 18 times, so you play till the last out. As you can see it came down to the last one.”

The Warriors did, indeed, fight till the final out. With one out, speedy leadoff man Max Nolan was thrown out on an infield grounder by a half a step. Then Pelaez struck out No. 2 hitter Sean Brenn with an off-speed pitch but the ball got away from catcher Will Sacchetti. 

The ball bounded high off the backstop, Sacchetti retrieved it and fired to first baseman Brendan Klotz to barely nip Brenn for the final out. 

Pelaez went the distance for the Spartans, and struck out 10 while allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits and one walk.

“When we were losing the mood was down,” Pelaez said. “But inning by inning the morale started getting higher. We knew we had to fight.”

The Spartans began their comeback in the bottom of the third when Austin Mulford hit a two-run double and Sacchetti added an RBI double to bring their team to within a run at 5-4. 

The Warriors pulled their ace, the hard-throwing Yoder, after four innings for pitch count reasons and inserted Augie Furlong, who offered a flurry of breaking balls. In the fifth the Spartans singled three straight times with one out to load the bases but Furlong escaped with a strikeout looking and an infield popup.

In the top of the sixth, Klotz reached on an infield single and took second on an errant pickoff attempt. Luke McGill hit a screaming liner right at center fielder Colin Hindle for the first out.

Pelaez, hitless in his first two at bats, lasered the first pitch he saw from Furlong over the right field fence for a 6-5 Spartans lead.

“I was a little upset about not hitting but you always have to forget it,” Pelaez said. “I just thought the new pitcher was a little slower than the first guy and I have to hit the ball hard. I felt barrel – all barrel – and I knew it was going out.”

Warriors coach Ben Yoder said he had no regrets about pulling his son from the game after four innings.

“Ryder threw 45 pitches yesterday so I didn’t want to overextend him,” Warriors coach Ben Yoder said. “If we had our No. 1 fresh with pitches left I think it’s a different game.

“As far as Augie was pitching-wise, he’s a low ball pitcher and I thought we had a great chance with him. (Pelaez) hit a tough pitch. That pitch was down by his shoelaces, and he went down and got it.”

Orlando was equally impressed with Pelaez blast, and he had the opportunity to see the young lefty take three out of the park this weekend. Pelaez inflated his season home run total to 15.

“He was 0-or-2 going into the sixth inning, and me and the coaches said there’s no way he’s going 0-for-03 today,” Orlando said. “It was the right guy in the right spot. He had quite a hitting weekend. I’m telling you, every time he puts on that shirt, he hits. When he gets out of bed, he hits.”

It can’t be overstated how well Pelaez tamed Warriors hitters after the third inning. They scored twice in the second inning for a 3-1 lead when Yoder had an RBI double and later scored on a wild pitch. Matthew Meisten hit a solo homer in the third and Nolan hit a solo homer in the fourth, pushing the Warriors to a 5-1 cushion.

That was all the Warriors would extract from Pelaez, who allowed just one hit and one walk over the final three innings. 

“We’re disappointed we couldn’t hang on to the lead but their pitcher pitched well,” Ben Yoder said. “We just never got anything going after we took the lead.”

Orlando was asked if this kind of victory – a come-from-behind win in a championship game – raises the bar for his Spartans. Their spring resume includes the finals appearance in Maryland and a USABL tournament title Easter weekend.

“I know how good they can be, and now they’re starting to understand how good they can be, and that’s big,” Orlando said. “We have another one next week and we’ll see how it goes. But they’re having fun doing it and that’s the most important part when you’re 12.”

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